Experts claim sensor glitch could have downed Eurofighter

A sensor malfunction aboard a Eurofighter Typhoon is thought to be the most likely cause of a crash in Spain.

The fighter was on a routine test flight over Toledo when, according to the Spanish ministry of defence, both engines shut down. The crew from the two-seater variant ejected safely before the aircraft crashed. The accident happened on 21 November.

An official investigation is still under way, although the manufacturer, EADS, said it expected to discover the cause of the accident within 24 hours of the crash. EADS has grounded the other six development aircraft.

Meanwhile UK aerospace propulsion experts have pointed to the highly sensitive electronics that are necessary to control an aircraft designed intentionally to be unstable. Simultaneous engine failure is rare, but sensors monitoring engine performance could have detected a phantom fault and given a shutdown command.

‘This shutdown seems to suggest an electronic trigger has issued a command. The software could have thought it was protecting the engines. It is pretty unheard of that you get a simultaneous shutdown due to component failure.’

The aircraft – which was said not to have been undertaking difficult manoeuvres – was fitted with specialised flight test instrumentation and data recorders that could send information in real time to engineers on the ground.

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